Pensioners and the Big Wind

 

Sir, – Further to “The calm before the Big Wind of 1839 was particularly eerie” (October 16th), tales of folk being awarded the pension a century ago by simply claiming they could remember the night of the Big Wind are as accurate as the tales of the numbers crammed into the GPO in Easter 1916.

Turtle Bunbury is right about there being few births registered before 1865, but that’s because civil registration only began on January 1st, 1864.

Before then, there are parishes and congregations, Catholic and Protestant, the length and breadth of the country with baptismal registers stretching back two or three generations earlier. And if no evidence could be found in those registers, then, until their destruction in 1922, the pension committees would accept certified abstracts from the census records of 1841 and 1851.

Among the papers of the Chief Secretary’s Office (held at the National Archives of Ireland) are many files of parliamentary questions raised at Westminster disputing failed pension claims.

In almost every case, the application failed because reliable evidence was not forthcoming as to the applicant’s date of birth. – Yours, etc,

STEVEN C SMYRL,

Rathgar,

Dublin 6.